Hailstorm destroys apple and pear crops in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley
After battling constant rains and floods this season, fruit growers in Victoria’s apple and pear growing region saw their crops rendered worthless by a quick flurry of hail on Melbourne Cup day.
- Hailstorms damaged fruit in orchards in northern Victoria
- Most of Australia’s pears and half of its apples are grown in the Goulburn Valley
- Producers hope for government help to stay afloat
The storm, which arrived in the afternoon, dumped hail on young fruit crops across much of northern Victoria.
“Probably 50 per cent of the region has been affected to varying degrees, everywhere from Cobram, Ardmona, parts of Tatura, Shepparton and Shepparton East,” said Fruit Growers Victoria spokesman Michael Crisera.
Mr Crisera visited orchards to inspect the damage.
“Most of it was what we call peppercorn-sized hail, but there are also reports of larger hail of around 5mm,” he said.
Mr Crisera called on governments to provide assistance to growers who have lost crops, which for many would have been their source of income for the next 12 months.
“Hopefully some of our growers will get help getting through now that they are badly affected by hail.”
It was a difficult year for fruit growing
The hailstorm adds to what has already been a tough year for fruit growers in the Goulburn Valley, an area that typically produces almost a third of Australia’s apple crop and 80% of Australia’s pears. Australia.
“It’s very frustrating. It couldn’t have come at a worse time to be honest with you,” Mr Crisera said.
Widespread flooding in orchards in the area has seen some trees die and inundated farms unnavigable.
Constant rains have made it difficult for growers to manage disease; and prices, especially for apples and pears, have not been good.
Growers now have to spend the rest of the fruit-growing season producing unsaleable fruit.
Hail damage at this time of year can cut or scar developing stone fruits, pears and apples.
“It’s a bad part of farming and I wish it didn’t happen,” said Mooroopna arborist Peter Hall.
“It’s probably the toughest year I can remember and it underscores the pressure producers are under.”
Retailers and the government have asked for help
Mr Crisera works for Fruit Growers Victoria, an industry organization that represents the many affected growers.
He believes that many producers in the region will need financial assistance to survive and will start preparing a report for the government on expected losses.
“A lot of our producers are really in survival mode, where they really want to survive the next 12 to 18 months,” he said.
He said retailers, including large supermarket chains, could help by relaxing standards on fruit blemishes or selling special ranges of hail-damaged fruit.
In the past, governments have provided grants or low-interest loans to fruit growers after major hailstorms.
“We will determine what kind of assistance we can request because we have to do our best,” Mr Crisera said.